Local campaigns take off, show conflicting endorsements in presidential race
MANILA, Philippines—The election on May 9 is now within reach and as expected, national political parties already sealed endorsements for individuals seeking the presidency.
However, as local candidates started wooing voters last March 25, resistance to these endorsements, like the ones made by the National Unity Party (NUP) and Partido Reporma, is stealing the limelight.
These local candidates are among the 46,000 individuals seeking these elective posts—governor (81), vice governor (81), provincial board (780), mayor (1,634), vice mayor (1,634), councilor (13,540), and district representative (253).
Maria Ela Atienza, a political science professor of the University of the Philippines Diliman, told INQUIRER.net that some of the local endorsements indicated divisions within each political party.
She said because of the weakness of political parties in the Philippines and even the reliance on personalities over programs and ideologies, there is lack of discipline and that there is no clear participative decision-making.
Atienza stressed that while there are endorsements which stand on shared principles, values and programs, there are those that are intended only for the protection of self-interests.
With less than 50 days left before Election Day, INQUIRER.net will highlight why and how local candidates decided to go against the endorsements made by their respective parties.
Marcos or Robredo?
Last March 24, the National Unity Party (NUP), declared that it will back the presidential bid of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., saying that his call for unity is consistent with its primary vision of “one nation, one future”.
In response, lawyer Vic Rodriguez, the spokesperson of Marcos Jr., said the endorsement was a confirmation of the UniTeam’s call for “national unity and nation building”.
“The endorsement of the NUP confirms that our movement for national unity and nation-building which started as a mere whisper, is now a crescendoing national chorus,” Rodriguez said.
However, last March 26, the NUP president, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga (fourth district), endorsed the presidential bid of Vice President Leni Robredo. His wife, Dasmariñas City Mayor Jenny Barzaga, also endorsed Robredo.
Barzaga, who is seeking reelection, said only Robredo has experienced working with all branches of the government—as a lawyer for the poor, as a legislative district representative and as the Vice President.
Cavite Rep. Alex Advincula (third district), who is seeking the highest office in Imus City, also endorsed Robredo, saying that like what the Vice President said, “in an honest government, Imus City will rise for a better tomorrow”.
For the camp of Robredo, the endorsements indicated that Cavite has once again become an “important battleground for the presidency”. With 2,302,353 registered voters, the province is the second most vote-rich.
Cavite governor Jonvic Remulla already endorsed Marcos Jr., saying that he will win in Cavite by 800,000 votes. With the Remullas in endorsing Marcos Jr. is Barzaga’s son, Dasmariñas City Councilor Kiko Barzaga.
Last March 27, Misamis Oriental Rep. Juliette Uy (second district), who is also the chairperson of the NUP in Northern Mindanao, led the Hugpong Panaghiusa in endorsing Robredo.
With her were over 20 local candidates, like her husband Julio Uy, who is seeking to replace her in the House of Representatives, and her daughter Jennie Uy-Mendez, who is seeking reelection as Villanueva town mayor.
The Hugpong Panaghiusa, however, did not back Sen. Kiko Pangilinan for the vice presidency. Instead, they endorsed President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
Uy, who is seeking the highest office in Misamis Oriental, said “we look at the credibility of the candidates and Robredo is committed, virtuous and principled”. She said Robredo is a close friend, especially since 2013.
For Joey Pelaez, who is seeking the vice governorship, the decision was “principled” because they did not base it on popularity. “We are choosing whom we think is the best leader,” he said.
They said Robredo is a credible person and is deserving of their endorsement: “Before she became a public official, she was already a public servant.” Misamis Oriental has 1,039,205 registered voters.
Uy said they are expecting more NUP leaders, especially women, to come out and endorse Robredo’s presidential bid. Robredo won the vice presidential race in Misamis Oriental in 2016 with 147,884 votes, a 44,973-lead against Marcos Jr.’s 102,991 votes.
Still with Lacson?
Last March 24, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who is seeking the presidency, resigned as the chairperson of Partido Reprorma since its leaders decided to endorse Robredo’s presidential bid.
This, as Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (first district), who is the president of Partido Reporma, said “with a heavy heart, many members of Partido Reporma are constrained to consider a candidate other than their first choice”.
He said while Lacson is the most competent to become president, since the election landscape has changed, they reasonably believe that the only realistic choice is to converge with Robredo.
“There’s really nothing that I don’t like about [her],” he said, stressing that when he was still the House Speaker, he did everything to defend the President: “That’s really how I am. I defend my friends. I really take bullets [for them].”
With only 42,684 votes, Robredo “miserably” lost in Davao del Norte in the 2016 vice presidential race. Marcos Jr. got 130,796 votes while then Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who won in the province, got 216,058 votes.
Davao del Norte governor Edwin Jubahib and former LPGMA Partylist Rep. Arnel Ty, the secretary general and treasurer of Partido Reporma, respectively, also endorsed Robredo.
The decision, however, shocked former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa, one of the founders of Partido Reporma, who said he will stick with Lacson. He said those fighting for Lacson should not leave him behind.
Partido Reporma also lost key officials in Bohol who decided to stand with Lacson, who is now seeking the presidency as an independent candidate. They filed irrevocable resignations from the party.
Jagna mayor Joseph Rañola and former police chief Edgardo Ingking, who acted as Partido Reporma’s co-chairpersons in Bohol, signed the statement which stressed “strong and continued commitment” to Lacson’s presidential bid.
Fighting dictatorship, endorsing dictator’s son
The PDP-Laban wing, which is led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, endorsed Marcos Jr., saying that after “careful and exhaustive deliberations,” he received the most endorsements from the local councils of PDP-Laban.
Established in 1982, the PDP-Laban was the result of the coalition of the late Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.’s PDP and the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.’s Lakas ng Bayan to oppose the dictatorship of then President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Last year, however, the PDP-Laban became divided—one is led by Cusi while the other is led by Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who is seeking the presidency—because of a rift that is already beyond resolution.
Cusi said Marcos Jr. has the program which is most consistent with the development program of President Duterte, saying that 13 officials, like Sen. Bong Go, signed the resolution to endorse Marcos Jr.
However, Lourdes Pimentel, the widow of Pimentel Jr., hit the PDP-Laban wing led by Cusi for endorsing the Marcos’ son, saying that “the thieves who stole the nation’s coffers have also stolen PDP-Laban”.
“As the wife of Pimentel and a witness to the creation of PDP-Laban, my heart weeps and I feel sorry for our country. Let’s not get carried away by money and false promises,” she said.
Eastern Samar governor Ben Evardone, the PDP-Laban vice president for the Visayas, already endorsed Robredo, saying that based on the qualifications set by Duterte, Robredo is the only “decisive and compassionate lawyer”. Evardone said his move had the approval of Duterte.
In Surigao City, Surigao del Norte, local candidates who are linked with President Duterte had a motorcade that was heavily loaded only with Sara’s posters, not Marcos Jr.’s.
Vice Mayor Ernesto Matugas Sr. explained that they can’t carry Marcos Jr. yet because they are still waiting for the official decision from their political party. “We are waiting for official confirmation,” he said.
When told that the PDP-Laban wing led by Cusi already endorsed Marcos Jr.’s presidential bid, he said the local political coalition in Surigao del Norte is not solid on national candidates to endorse.
Iloilo governor Arthur Defensor and Iloilo City mayor Jerry Treñas, who are both seeking reelection, resisted NUP’s endorsement of Marcos Jr. and backed Robredo instead.
Defensor, who was present at the NUP’s national meeting last March 23, said he was very thankful that the NUP respected their decision in the same way that they respected the decisions of the rest of the party.
For Treñas, he said “I was told that they will respect our stand and I appreciate it very much”. He stressed that he will also respect the decision of the NUP to back the presidential bid of Marcos Jr.
Last March 11, Iloilo Rep. Michael Gorrieta (second district) went against the decision of the Nacionalista Party to back Marcos Jr. and endorsed Robredo’s presidential bid instead, saying that “we need somebody who will embrace Iloilo as if her own and will put preferential consideration and dedication to its people”.
“My father would speak fondly of VP Len’s sincere and genuine character as colleagues in the 16th Congress. I have personally witnessed her compassion and selfless love as she responds to the needs of the people most especially in times of pandemic and calamities,” he said.